Who is Reading?

There has been a lot of news lately about research on reading statistics. Some of it can be depressing, especially when I read that fewer people are reading for pleasure and they are reading fewer books. However, there are some bright spots in the news.

World Reading

Following is a summary of some of the recent reports on reading:

  • One study from the Pew Research Center recently found that nearly a quarter of American adults had not read a single book in the past year. As in, they hadn’t cracked a paperback, fired up a Kindle, or even hit play on an audiobook while in the car. Now, that is only a quarter of the American adult population, leaving about three-fourths of adults who do read books. However, the sad part of this statistic is that the number of non-book readers in America has tripled since 1978 (when only 8% of American adults reported they had not read a single book in the past year).
  • Nielson Book recently presented data from one of their studies that showed that more teens today than any time in the past three years now say they don’t read for fun. According to Nielson, 41% of teens say they don’t read for fun. In 2011, only 21% of teens, between the ages of 13 and 17, said they didn’t read for fun.
  • According to a new study from Digital Book World, 67% of kids aged two-to-thirteen are reading ebooks. The study found that among children that read ebooks, 92% of them read a digital book every week. Interestingly, these kids also still love and want print books. According to this study, 48% of parents reported that their children have asked to purchase the print edition of an ebook that they have read or already own.

What I found interesting from these studies is that the only reading group really holding steady when it comes to reading is elementary-aged children. I suspect this is because most kids are required to read books as part of their homework every day, since elementary schools really focus on getting kids to read and read well enough to comprehend and learn.

I could give you my thoughts on why American’s aren’t reading as much as they used to—ebooks aren’t changing that. However, I think most of us can point to a number of reasons why reading is declining.

If you are an author, you should not only be saddened by reports of reading declining, but you should also be concerned. No author wants a shrinking pool to sell books to. We all want an expanding pool. I guess that is where “it’s a small world after all” comes into play. Many authors are now expanding their market to include the entire globe. Not a bad idea. After all, about 27% of the world’s almost seven billion people speak English.

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